Monday, March 4, 2024

First US troops killed in West Asia since start of Gaza war, Biden blames Iran-backed militants

Three US Army soldiers were killed and at least two dozen service members were injured in a drone attack overnight on a small US outpost in Jordan, Washington has confirmed, marking the first time US forces have been killed by "enemy fire" in the Middle East since the beginning of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip in early October.

The killing of three Americans at Tower 22 in Jordan near the border with Syria is a significant escalation of an already-precarious situation in the Middle East.

Officials claim the drone was fired by “Iran-backed militants” and appeared to come from Syria.

US Central Command confirmed in a statement on Sunday that three service members were killed and 25 injured in a one-way drone attack that “impacted at a base in northeast Jordan”.

US President Joe Biden has vowed those responsible for the deaths of three US service members will be held accountable, and cast blame on “Iran-backed militant groups”.

“Today, America’s heart is heavy,” Biden said in a statement Sunday, adding, “Last night, three US service members were killed—and many wounded—during an unmanned aerial drone attack on our forces stationed in northeast Jordan near the Syria border.”

“While we are still gathering the facts of this attack, we know it was carried out by radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq,” Biden continued.

He vowed the US “will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner our choosing”.

Iran has repeatedly stressed that it “neither gives orders to the resistance groups across the region, nor stops them from taking decisions in their own countries based on their own interests”.

It’s unclear why air defenses failed to intercept the drone, which appears to be the first known attack on Tower 22 since attacks on US and coalition forces began on October 17. US forces at the outpost are there as part of an advise-and-assist mission with Jordan.

As of Friday, there had been more than 158 attacks on US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, though officials have described the constant volley of drones, rockets, and missiles as unsuccessful as they have frequently not caused serious injury or damage to infrastructure.

There have been dozens of injuries since the attacks began — a senior military official told reporters last week there were roughly 70 — but the Pentagon has classified most of them as minor, aside from one US soldier who was critically injured in an attack in Iraq on Christmas Day.

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